PRESTONSBURG – The East Kentucky Science Center hosted the Kentucky Girls STEM Collaborative 2016 Annual Conference on Friday. Over 100 girls, parents and teachers attended the conference consisting of guest speakers, panel discussions, hands-on activities and planetarium shows. Prior to Friday, the conference had never been held in Eastern Kentucky.
“Hosting the STEM conference is a big deal for us,” said Steven Russo, East Kentucky Science Center Director.
Located at 1 Bert T. Combs Drive in Prestonsburg, the East Kentucky Science Center is s private, non-profit science center and planetarium located on the main campus of Big Sandy Community and Technical College.
STEM stands for Science, Technology Engineering and Math. The United States has developed as a global leader, in large part, through the genius and hard work of its scientist, engineers and innovators. In a world that is becoming increasingly complex, where success is driven not only by what you know, but by what you can do with what you know, it’s more important than ever for the youth to be equipped with the knowledge and skills to solve tough problems, gather and evaluate evidence and make sense of information. These are the types of skills students learn by studying science, technology, engineering and math – collectively known as STEM.
Friday’s STEM conference had several guest speakers discuss various aspects of their chosen field of study. Mindy Curless, is a STEM initiatives Consultants with Kentucky Department of Education. Tracy Prater, PhD. Is originally from Hazard and works as an Aerospace Engineer for NASA Marshall Space Flight Center Materials and Processes Laboratory in Huntsville, Alabama. LaTracia Burchett originally from Ivel is a junior at the University of Kentucky pursuing a B.S. in Chemical Engineering. Aida Bermudez is a Hummel Planetarium Educator at Eastern Kentucky University. Local doctor Sammie Gibson, OBGYN is a native of Pikeville and received a B.S. from Pikeville College and graduated from University of Pikeville’s School of Osteopathic Medicine in 2002. Molly Frank is a student at the University of Pikeville where she successfully researched, developed, and patented a plant-derived feed additive aimed to increase the feed conversion ratio of broiler chickens; thus, improving their growth rate and effectively replacing the use of antibiotics in poultry feed. Anne Koontz is an Alltech Research Scientist who received her PhD. The youngest of the panelist was Ariana Velasquez, a STEM student and the first place winner of the 2015 East Kentucky Science Fair. Velasquez built a cricket satellite that could detect atmospheric temperatures.
The Kentucky Girls STEM Collaborative is meant to motivate Kentucky girls to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and math. The collaboration brings together organizations and programs that are committed to informing and motivating girls to pursue a degree in STEM subjects to build a strong diverse workforce in Kentucky
“I am a girly girl. I love am in Jenny Wiley Theatre, I love comic books, literature and reading, but I also love science. Last year for the science fair, I built a cricket satellite that could detect atmospheric temperature. I hope one day to become a politician so I can lobby for all young girls and promote funding for women in science,” said Ariana Velasquez.
The Kentucky Girls STEM Collaborative is part of President Barack Obama’s initiative to promote the development of world-class talent in science, technology, engineering and mathematics and the critical role they play in America’s global leadership.
Andrea Saddler is a reporter for The Floyd County Times. She can be reached at (606) 886-8506.